Vasily Smyslov, 7th world chess champion, died this week at the age of 89. Poor and blind, by all accounts.

If the world championship doesn’t impress, simply consider that Smyslov won the famous Zurich 1953 tournament — a monstrous double round-robin murderers’ row including Euwe, Geller, Averbach, Kotov, Keres, Reshevsky, Bronstein, Najdorf and other superstars — while losing only one game.

Several kibitzers have pointed to Smyslov-Liberzon 1968 as one of his greatest. It’s a positional crush featuring a queen sacrifice that simply leaves me shaking my head.

In 1955 Smyslov played for the USSR in a match in Moscow against a USA team. Smyslov won all four of his games. Against whom? GM Art Bisguier, who reminisced about it at my chess club last night. “I never dented Smyslov,” he said. After that 4-0 whitewash, they played a number of games over the years, sometimes drawing but Bisguier never winning.

I was saddened to hear Smyslov had passed away but felt very lucky to listen to Bisguier, recalling that period of history from his front-row seat.


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